High-end hotel, train and river-cruise operator Belmond – whose portfolio includes the Eastern & Oriental Express and the Royal Scotsman, currently the UK’s only luxury sleeper train – is delighted to present Ireland’s first luxury rail experience on the Belmond Grand Hibernian (the name derived from the Latin name for Ireland), which will visit the country’s highlights, including Dublin, Belfast and Cork. Three-day, two-night scenic journeys begin at €3,160 per person.
The first Irish railway trip sets off on August 30 – in a handsome luxury midnight-blue and silver 10-carriage sleeper train with accommodation for up to 40 passengers travelling in 20 elegant, en-suite cabins. Interior design is by James Park Associates, which has worked on other successful train projects for the company including Belmond Northern Belle and Eastern & Oriental Express. This project is inspired by Dublin’s classic Georgian architecture, blended with elements of Ireland’s ancient folklore and traditions to evoke the country’s celebrated cultural heritage with a modern twist. Furnishings, by local artisans, feature Celtic knots weaved throughout, in colours matching the tartans of the counties after which the carriages are named – including sleeper car Waterford and dining cars Sligo and Wexford.
The first tour begins in Dublin with the option of arranging a one-night stay at the Merrion Hotel, home to the two-star Michelin Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. Rendezvous the next day is at Dublin Heuston station before setting off for Belfast for a private guided tour of The Titanic Experience, at the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard where RMS Titanic was built. A leisurely dinner is sustenance for the next day’s journey to Giant’s Causeway – the only Unesco World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland, a breathtaking area of around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. The brave will consider crossing the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which joins the mainland to a tiny island. Restore courage with a visit to Old Bushmills Distillery – mission statement: “We’ve been at it since 1608” – to glean the secrets behind the 400-year-old whiskey.
The following day, the train returns to Dublin, with the onward possibilities of private excursions such as tours of historic estates, or a round of golf at, say Portmarnock or the Royal Dublin, two of the finest courses in the world, as well as immersion into the world of Ireland’s celebrated writers, musicians and artists – in the footsteps of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Basil Blackshaw, Josef Locke and Bono.
Onboard catering throughout the journey features the bounty of Ireland, by chef Alan Woods, whose contemporary twists on traditional Irish fare include roast Killarney venison loin, scallops from the Beara Peninsula, Donegal turf-smoked salmon and seafood chowder. “The Gulf Stream makes the waters a little warmer and the seafood a little sweeter,” explains Woods, previously head chef at Thornton’s in Dublin. “My aim is to put Ireland’s rich and diverse ingredients on the global food map. Through food we can tell a story about the destination,” he says.